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June 2006


COLLECTIBLES

Fully Booked
by Ed Kiersh

RARE BOOKS CAN BRING VOLUMES OF ADVENTURE AND REAMS OF CASH

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Once the focus of obscenity trials and still provocative as an example of groundbreaking modernist literature, James Joyce's stream-of-consciousness Ulysses is a bedeviling mix of bawdy puns, Irish in-jokes, parodies, experimental wordsplay and literary allusions. To make sense of Leopold Bloom's travails on a single day in Dublin—June 16, 1904—readers must wade through this massive work with a guidebook or two, and walk a tightrope between confusion, hilarity and sheer intimidation.

But rejoice. One doesn't need a doctorate in literary criticism to grasp the steady rise of Ulysses in the rare book world. Now one of the most coveted trophies in collecting circles, a first edition of this everyman version of Homer's The Odyssey has become such a Holy Grail that a large paper version bound in the original blue wrappers that sold for $40,000 three years ago can now fetch $75,000. Even more dramatic, a signed volume auctioned for $100,000 four years ago soared to an impressive $300,000 in 2005.

Other fabled titles in superb condition are also enjoying a current run-up.

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